Blencathra – via Halls Fell & Sharp Edge, descending via Doddick Fell 16.8.16

A perfect day to climb Blencathra via Halls Fell before descending to Scales Tarn and ascending once more to the summit via the tricky Sharp Edge Route then finally descending via Foule Crag and Roddick Fell back to Gategill Farm. (Book 5 Northern Fells).

WAINWRIGHT BOOK: The Northern Fells Book 5

DIFFICULTY:   4      WALK LENGTH: Full day

DATE and START TIME: Tuesday 16th August 2016 Start time around 8am

PARKING: Threkeld, Gategill Industrial Estate. (NY325 256)

ROUTE WALKED: Gategill Farm – Halls Fell  – BLENCATHRA  summit -Scales Tarn – Sharp Edge – Foule Crag and down Doddick Fell back to Gategill Farm. 

WALK DETAILS: 5.9 miles 7hrs including lunch and coffee breaks.

HIGHEST POINT: Blencathra  – 895m/2937ft.

WALKED WITH: Pal and Mila (aged 13).

WEATHER: Glorious weather, in fact a bit too hot!  I got quite burnt . . . hard to imagine that we needed hats and gloves on the Fairfield Horseshoe last Saturday (13th August)!

We made an early start to avoid the potential crowds on such a perfect day.  We start by heading up the road then taking a left towards Gategill Farm.

There’s Gategill Fell on the left and the summit of Blencathra on the right at the top of Hall’s Fell which we will climbing today.

Heading up towards Gate Ghyll Farm, past the kennels.

Up through the gate, following the clear path . . . 

. . . through another gate across the base of Gategill Fell.  There’s our goal ahead on the right of the photograph, the perfect day for such a walk.

Across Gate Gill and over to Hall’s Fell, the most central of five buttresses which climb over the southern face.

Mila at the start of the route on Hall’s Fell

Clough Head on the left then High Rigg and further round to Bleaberry Fell and the ridge route leading to High Seat.

Further round you have High Seat again with the ridge leading down to Bleaberry Fell and Walla Crag.  Beyond is Borrowdale then the ridge of High Spy leading down to Maiden Moor and Catbells.  We gain height quickly with the view opening up behind us – a little hazy in the morning sunshine – the Central and North Western Fells.

It’s a pretty steep climb but in this weather it’s straightforward and glorious.  You can see how steep the route is, in wet weather it would be pretty tricky but today we have perfect conditions and as we’re so early it’s wonderfully peaceful, does anything get better than this? . . . Not much!

I wonder what Pal is pointing out to Mila, I can’t remember!  This photo gives an indication of how steep the climb is, the slope seen belongs to Gategill Fell

Come on folks, time to stop admiring the view and get going, though there’s no real hurry (as you can tell from the time taken for this walk we did a lot admiring the view and why not when you have views like this).

The distinctive bobble summit of Causey Pike is recognisable from many directions, though it’s very small in this photograph!  Look just right of centre after the ‘V’ dip. To the right of it is, I think, Sale and Eel Crags.

This is the perfect, terrain for Mila who loves anything that involves a good scramble, and has absolutely no fear of heights . . . lucky her!

Mila looking back at us slow coaches and there’s the summit of Blencathra behind her.

The heather was just spectacular.  There’s Pal looking across Doddick Fell (our return route) with Scales Fell beyond which come into view around 1600ft.

Mila enjoying the scrambling, I’m bringing up the rear rather more tentatively, but wait till later in the walk when we go up Sharp Edge, then I’m positively going at a snail’s pace and on all fours for most of that section!

Mila making a funny duck face.  This is the last easy section before the final scramble up, positively exhilarating though I wouldn’t fancy doing this in anything other than perfect conditions, if wet I think the stones would be very slippery.

Not a walker in sight . . . so tranquil.

The summit of Blencathra ahead and our route over towards Doddick Fell.

Mila with Gategill Fell behind her.

There’s a clear path up Hall’s Fell.  Wainwright describes Hall’s Fell perfectly, “for active walkers and scramblers this route is positively the finest way to the mountain-top in the district.  It is direct, exhilarating, has glorious views, and (especially satisfying) scores a bulls-eye by leading unerring to the summit-cairn” (Book 5 Blencathra 17).  This photo sums up what Wainwright described don’t you think?

The slopes of Gategill Fell with Threlkeld village at the base.  The view is hazy but impressive.  Two lakes are in sight, on the left is Thirlmere while on the right is Derwentwater.  To the right of Thirlmere is Benn (with Raven Crag behind and High Rigg in front), with High Seat; Bleaberry Fell and Walla Crag the ridge line behind going down to Derwentwater.  Castlerigg stone circle is below Walla Crag.  Beyond Bleaberry Fell / Walla Crag on the far side of Derwentwater is Borrowdale with Maiden Moor.  Left to right beyond Thirlmere is Ulscarf and beyond it is Swirl How;  Dow Crag and Grey Friar then Crinkle Crags Bowfell, Esk Pike; Allen Crags slightly in front, then Scafell Pike; Lingmell then the prominent triangular fell pretty much in the centre is Great Gable; Brandreth; Kirk Fell; Dale Head; Hindscarth; Robinson etc. . . . 

A bit more of a close-up with Thirlmere just visible fairly central in the photo.

Super Girl . . . 

The last place for a rest before the scramble.

Isn’t it just glorious?

We decided to scramble up the crest of the fell though as you can see there is a path which bypasses some of the scrambling.

Some great rocky scrambles . . . The last half mile of Hall’s ridge is known as Narrow Edge – an apt description of the succession of “low crags, with steps and gateways and towers of rock.” (AW Book 5 Blencathra 17).  Mila, and therefore also Pal and I decided to climb the crest throughout rather than take the more straightforward grassy track.

A look back at the route we’ve walked.

A look back at Hall’s Fell.

Gate gill Fell ridge with Middle Tongue (between Gategill Fell and Hall’s Fell); with Derwent Water beyond.

The ground level trig point close to the summit cairn on Blencathra.

From the summit of Blencathra the west ridge leads to Gategill and Blease Fells, the two western buttresses.

In the opposite direction . . .

Left to right: In the distance High Pike and Carlisle.  The green mound on the left is Atkinson Pike (the top of Foule Crag) with The Saddle in front with the white cross (which I photographed later) is to the left.  The dark fell to the right of Atkinson Pike is Carrock Fell with the east ridge of Bowscale Fell in front. The fell to the right with the dark edged gully is Bannerdale Crags with Cold Pike behind then Souther fell is on the right of the photograph.

From front to back the fells here are the slopes of Doddick Fell which we planned to use as our route of descent;  and Scales Fell beyond; the southern ridge of Bannerdale Crags is the fell with the dark gully.  Scales Tarn is just out of sight in dip between Bannerdale Crags and Scale Fell. Souther Fell is beyond Bannerdale Crags.

Pal looking down at our route (and following his eyes, Carrock Fell and further to the right at the back, Bowscale Fell.  Having reached the summit of Blencathra, our plan is now to descend to Scales Tarn, so that we can ascend to the summit again this time by Sharp Edge where Pal is looking.

Scales Tarn

From this photo you can see the path we’re going to go down before crossing Scales Beck and then beginning the infamous Sharp Edge ascent and Bannerdale Crags behind.

A wider view of the route we’ll be following. You can see the really clear path.

Descending down Scales Fell to the tarn.  Despite the perfect weather it’s wonderfully quiet

Mila enjoying the sunshine at Scales Tarn.  As you can see there are now other walkers about to ascend Sharp Edge.

Looking back at our route down to Scales Tarn from the route up Sharp Edge and Blencathra’s summit.

Climbing Sharp Edge was totally exhilarating though Mila was a mountain goat in her approach and I was more of a scaredy cat on all fours! But to be fair there was a long steep drop on either side, treacherous in wet weather if the stones were wet.

Mila waiting for me and Pal to catch up.

There are a few walkers ahead of us.  I have to admit I was a little nervous about Sharp Edge – but as Wainwright describes it (Book 5 Blencathra 25), “Sharp Edge is a rising crest of naked rock, of sensational and spectacular appearance, a breaking wave carved in stone . . . The crest itself is sharp enough for shaving (the former name was Razor Edge) . . .”  I certainly wouldn’t like to attempt this if the stone was wet – it’s been worn really smooth.  There’s one particularly awkward section where you have to shuffle off a sloping slab on to a knife edge, and “The climb up the side of Foule Crag from the end of the Edge, over an initial smooth slab and scree filled grooves, is unpleasant.” – But a fantastic feeling of achievement once you’re up and looking back!

As you can see it is quite terrifying!

The goal of our climb ahead.

The final section of the climb, you can just see a walker reaching the pinnacle.

It is as scary as it looks!

There are a few places where you can stop and take a breather and for me get my wobbling knees back under control.

Pal on the final stretch of the climb.


Looking down on Scales Tarn

Pal looking back and enjoying the achievement of having scaled Sharp Edge.

Wow, that’s certainly sharp!

Foul Crag.  The only safe way to take a breather at this point is to lean back . . . 

Back on the summit of Blencathra there’s a White Cross of stones laid out in the grass with Atkinson Pike, the top of Foule Crag in the distance.  Wainwright explains its origins (Blencathra 33).  This collection of white crystallised stones of high quartz content is north of the Saddle on the easy rise to the top of Foule Crag.  Harold Robinson, from Threlkeld, is responsible for the cross.  Originally there was a very small cross, a memorial to a walker who lost his life on a rough slope adjacent, and Mr Robinson, a keen walker, collected more stones and extended the cross to its present size during a succession of visits from 1945 onwards.  There’s a similar but much smaller white cross on the southern slope of the Saddle which is more recent and by an unknown visitor.

Pal and Mila exploring the summit plateau of Blencathra with Atkinson Pike in the distance.

Looking back in the other direction towards the summit proper of Blencathra from Atkinson Pike  across the ‘Saddle’ and you can see it’s much busier there now, unsurprisingly with weather like this.  

A close up of the busy summit.

Now for more of the views . . . but first a bite to eat!

Looking west, Lonscale Fell then just below the central cloud on the photo is Skiddaw Little Man with Skiddaw to the right.

To fix the problem of erosion an engineered path now zig-zags its way up the last of the Scales Fell ridge – but it’s a shame the path looks so unnatural . . . 

Starting our descent we follow the engineered path till the top of Doddick Fell and then descend Blencathra via the Doddick Fell ridge.

Taking a moment or two just to enjoy the magnificent views.

Mila’s still smiling . . . 

Our route down Doddick Fell

Our fell runner . . . still full of energy!

It’s a pretty steep descent.

Mila surveying the route down.

Looking back to the summit of Blencathra from Doddick Fell.

Mila is running so fast us oldies can’t keep up!

Looking back up Doddick Fell, it’s pretty steep isn’t it!

Great Mell with Little Mell behind.

Not far to go now . . .

The poles definitely help the knees on the descent.

The heather looks so beautiful at this time of year.

Almost down now.

At the bottom of Doddick Fell there are two choices . . . the barely visible path near the trees on the left, or the path higher up across the base of Hall’s Fell, this is the route we took.

Doddick Fell

Crossing the base of Hall’s Fell through the bracken.

Hall’s Fell which we climbed first thing this morning.

Not far and we’ll be back at the car and ready to go into Keswick for some refreshments.

Down past the farm and the kennels – almost back.

The path from Gate Ghyll Farm leading back to the road where we parked the car – with Clough Head straight ahead.

A final look back at Blencathra with its distinctive saddle back profile.  This is the welcoming sight to every holiday maker travelling via Penrith into the Northern Lakes via the A66.

Blencathra means ‘dale-head seat’.  The alternative name being ‘Saddleback’.

Keswick – ice-creams all round, we’ve all gone for our usuals – Mila with the mint-choc chip; me with the strawberry and Pal’s is the vanilla.  I’m not quite sure why Mila is looking so bemused.  We’ve all caught the sun but typically I was the only one to get burnt!

Time to round of a perfect day with a walk along the main street in Keswick en route to our favourite cafe, Abraham’s at George Fisher’s outdoor shop.

George Fisher, here we come.

Hard to believe that just a few days earlier it was so cold on our walk around the the Fairfield horseshoe that we needed our hats and gloves on!